THE STARBUCKS OF MACHINE SHOPS

Boutique manufacturer ZYCI credits Onshape for enabling it to rapidly process high­-end customized orders

ZYCI specializes in highly customized manufacturing for low to medium volume production runs with an exceptionally quick turnaround. Based in Atlanta, the shop can produce and ship CNC machined and 3D printed parts less than two weeks from receiving CAD models and drawings provided by customers.

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Industry: Custom Manufacturing

Website: www.zyci.com

Industry: Custom Manufacturing

Website: www.zyci.com

I used to have to wait to get back to my office and open up the file only on the computer I had the license for. That just doesn’t support my business model. Now it doesn’t matter if I’m on my home computer, my laptop while I’m traveling, my office computer or the computer on the shop floor. I can log in and immediately discuss a part no matter where I am.

Mitch Free, ZYCI

ZYCI CNC Machining promises clients a manufacturing price quote within two hours of submitting their design.

When ZYCI founder and CEO Mitch Free chose the name of his new company, there was no symbolic backstory. The brand (pronounced ZEE-key) simply came down to available four-letter domain names he had previously bought for speculative use.

"I figured that I could make it mean what I wanted it to mean," says Free, a serial entrepreneur best known for building the world’s largest online manufacturing marketplace, MFG.com. "Turns out that I later learned that 'Zycie' in Polish is the meaning of life. After I sold MFG, I asked myself 'what's next?’ I knew that I didn’t want to play golf."

"For job shop manufacturers in America, everyone’s Nirvana is a one million piece production run. No one wants to touch the low volume stuff," he says. "I believe there is a huge opportunity to focus on low to medium volume production with a high degree of customization and short lead times. But you have to do it in a tech-savvy way."

Based in Atlanta, ZYCI differentiates itself in their highly specialized market with exceptionally fast turnaround times. The shop can produce and ship CNC machined and 3D printed parts less than two weeks from receiving CAD models and drawings provided by customers. They also promise clients price quotes within two hours.

To meet those tight deadlines, ZYCI relies on Onshape, a new professional-grade, cloud-based CAD platform that facilitates collaboration between manufacturers and engineers on any device and any browser.

Customization and Speed

"Product lifecycles are really short today," says Free. "Companies have to iterate and produce products faster than ever. But most shops still have a more traditional mindset of longer lead times. Making parts is relatively commoditized today. So how do you stand out? By providing what’s most important to the customer: speed, service, trust and dependability."

"It’s just like buying coffee. You can get a cup of coffee anywhere for a buck, but if you want a special kind prepared exactly the way you want it, you’ll pay $4 at Starbucks. It’s the same thing with products."

ZYCI founder Mitch Free (on left) and CNC machinist Kris Holland hold a specialized aircraft seat part they CNC machined from a block of aluminum.

In its first year in business, ZYCI has attracted a stream of lucrative orders across a wide variety of industries. Recent manufacturing jobs include making customized tool kits for the U.S. Navy, building prototype aluminum frames for first class airline seats that lay flat, producing high-end medical instruments, and making parts for luxury watches.

Free credits Onshape for helping him fulfill his two hour quote promise.

"We don’t design products. Our clients use whatever CAD system they prefer. Onshape can open any format and lets us access files from whichever computer we happen to be near. Speed is key. Speed is our value proposition," he says.

Access to CAD Anytime, Anywhere

"I used to have to wait to get back to my office and open up the file only on the computer I had the license for. That just doesn’t support my business model," Free says. "Now it doesn’t matter if I’m on my home computer, my laptop while I’m traveling, my office computer or the computer on the shop floor. I can log in and immediately discuss a part no matter where I am."

"I thought there would be a trade-off with speed when moving to the cloud, but so far there’s been no lag at all. Using Onshape on a browser is as real time as traditionally installed software," he adds.

A few times a week, ZYCI also uses Onshape to convert old school 2D drawings into 3D models. The company also values the platform for security reasons.

ZYCI uses Onshape to quickly access client production models from any CAD system.

"I’ve used a lot of different CAD software and Onshape just knocked it out of the park for their user experience," Free says. "It’s very easy to collaborate. You can share a file with someone for review only and not allow them to edit it. Right now when you email someone your CAD file, you’re giving away your intellectual property. You have no idea where your files will wind up."

Although ZYCI currently does not offer design services, Free envisions using Onshape more frequently to collaborate with customers during preproduction. "If we look at a file and see things that will drive up costs, we’ll offer suggestions on how to better design for manufacturability. We might be cutting our margins, but in the long run we hope our clients will see us as partners not in it for a quick profit."

"Customers aren’t necessarily looking for the cheapest price, they are looking for the best value," Free says.

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